New to her role as a department leader, Nancy was being cautious. “Before I make any decisions, I want to understand how things get done at this level. I need to know whom I can count on and who may have other plans that could affect my department’s success. Knowing the agendas of others helps me get my job done. I’m taking my time. I’ll just watch and learn before I take any action.”

This would be a very smart plan. If we still lived in the 20th century.

Today? Not-so-smart.

In this perfect storm of tight money, uncertainty and increasingly tough customers, most organizations simply can no longer afford to wait very long see genuine action. And therefore, any leader who wants to survive and thrive needs to show that they’re capable of creating forward momentum. Quickly.

In her case, Nancy’s in the retail sector which is under huge pressure for simple survival, not just growing and building. Some of the approaches, which in the past had helped move her up the ladder, are not going to help her this time around. For any new leader today, it’s important to recognize that what may have been successful for you earlier may be a drag on your ability to succeed this time around. Styles and methods which were appropriate in other positions and in other economies may result in failure in the new reality of 2009.

Regardless of their position on an organization chart, most leaders would be wise to follow our new President’s example. He gets it. He understands that the old ways of operating don’t work in this tough new environment.

In his first week in office, Obama created a whirlwind of activity. Orders and pronouncements flowed daily. Meetings took place with important individuals of various stripes inside government and outside of it. He honored several commitments made on the campaign trail and worked the media to reinforce his goals and plans.

By doing so, did 3 critical things:

1. He made a positive first impression on many who were following his actions. And that positive impression will help him develop relationships that will be very important when honeymoon period is over.

2. He confirmed to his supporters that they could trust him to honor promises. Many new leaders don’t do a good job of that once they get into power. Consequently, they lose their key supporters and with that some ability to get things done.

3. He showed he’s not afraid of getting his hands dirty. He knows people want to see that their leaders are prepared to do whatever it takes to get the big tasks completed. We’re more prone to bust out backs to help those who also work hard.

Any leader, in any role, or organization would be well served to follow his example.


Leadership Coach